A county commissioner in Washington issued a mea culpa Wednesday night and called on his colleagues to rescind a motion passed in defiance of Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) stay-at-home order.
Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck’s statement came just hours after Inslee, via his general counsel, warned the commissioners that their attempt to reopen county businesses was a violation of state law.
Inslee’s order, meant to curb the spread of COVID-19, is set to expire on May 4 and has the approval of state House and Senate leadership.
Peck said that he’d received a “flood” of calls and emails — some “openly hostile and threatening” — and has since decided that arguing with the governor is too divisive for the current climate.
“In our meeting Tuesday morning (April 21) the Board approved a resolution that was not properly vetted, and passed without thorough consideration of the myriad impacts it might produce,” he said in his Wednesday-night statement about the motion.
He shifted some of the blame onto his fellow commissioner Clint Didier who proposed the motion, saying that it should have already been subjected to a legal review and presented to the other members before the meeting.
Didier had also teased legal action against the governor’s order, but Peck emphatically told TPM Wednesday that neither he nor Franklin County is part of that possible effort.
Still, in his statement, Peck refused to let up on his insistence that Inslee’s order is unconstitutional.
“At the same time I believe the Governor’s directive banning large church services violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution,” he said.
Ultimately, he called on his fellow commissioners to rescind the motion “opening” the county and to be more thorough with future proposals. They have a meeting scheduled for Thursday morning, 9 a.m. local time.
For about 48 hours, the Washington county was a bastion of resistance, as the commissioners took their cue from the local sheriff.
Sheriff J.D. Raymond posted a letter on Facebook declaring that he would not enforce Inslee’s order against church gatherings or business operations.
“Our governor has overstepped his constitutional powers and is trying to control us under the guise of protecting us,” he wrote. “He states that he is protecting us from the current pandemic but is simultaneously creating an economic crisis.”
The attitude on display by the commissioners and sheriff has been echoed nationwide as conservatives chafe against the stay-at-home orders and rail against the economic devastation that has accompanied the pandemic.
Inslee, for his part, announced this week a framework for his recovery plan. Looking to May 4, he said that he expects the loosening of the lockdown restrictions to be more like the “turning of a dial than the flip of a switch.”
“In the coming days, we will receive additional health modeling projecting the course of this virus,” he said. “We hope it will give us cause to begin lifting certain restrictions.”